In 1786, while at Paris, I became acquainted with John Ledyard, of Connecticut, a man of genius, of some science, and of fearless courage and enterprise. He had accompanied Captain Cook in his voyage to the Pacific, had distinguished himself on several occasions by an unrivalled intrepidity, and published an account of that voyage …I suggested to him the enterprise of exploring the western part of our continent, by passing through St. Petersburg to Kamschatka, and procuring a passage thence in some of the Russian vessels to Nootka Sound, whence he might make his way across the continent to the United States; … he pursued his course to within two hundred miles of Kamschatka, where he was overtaken by an arrest from the Empress, brought back to Poland, and there dismissed.
Autobiography, 1821 (From Foley’s Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, Entry # 4559)
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Only death will stop some leaders!
Ledyard’s plan was to explore the American west by going east from France through Europe and Russia, across the sea to our west coast, and across the North American landmass to the Atlantic. Was this Ledyard’s idea or Jefferson’s? From the previous post, it appeared to be Ledyard’s. From this account 35 years later, Jefferson seemed to be the initiator. I suspect Ledyard already had the adventure in mind, and Jefferson only encouraged him.
This was Jefferson’s second effort to explore the American west, an idea he’d held since boyhood. The first effort in 1783 went nowhere. Ledyard was unsuccessful. Jefferson would fail a third time in 1793. (Another attempt, without his involvement, would fail in 1796.) It would be another decade before Lewis and Clark turned his dream into reality.
Ledyard was nothing if not determined! He made it to within 200 miles of Kamchatka, in the far eastern reaches of Russia, where he was arrested for trespassing. (From that coast, only a few miles of water separated him from what would become Alaska.) Under arrest, he was hauled all the way back west across Russia and released in eastern Europe.
What became of Ledyard?
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